For more than thirty years, the Republican Party in America has had only one mission: the reduction of taxes. Local taxes. State taxes. Federal taxes. Income taxes. Property taxes. Corporate taxes. Inheritance taxes. Capital gains taxes. Reduce ’em all. Eliminate them, if possible. Nevermind the necessary things that taxes fund, such as schools, highways, research, bank bailouts, etc. Just move whatever money is left into the military. So what if there’s nothing left to defend?
But that produces terrible results for most people. How do you get them to vote for you while you’re cutting them off at the knees? Simple: the Republican Party aligned itself with right-wing passions. It became the Scourge of Communism. The Defender of the Unborn. The Keeper of Traditional (i.e., Christian) Values. The Foe of Gun Control. The Slayer of Regulations. And the Last Line of Defense Against the Homosexual Menace. Wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross – just as Sinclair Lewis warned us.
The GOP has been fairly successful with this strategy. The top marginal federal income tax rate was 70% when Reagan was elected in 1980. When he left office eight years later, it was 28%. Of course, the GOP forgets that St. Ronnie Raygun paid for these massive tax cuts with equally massive federal borrowing. Debt. Same playbook used by W in the first decade of this century. That took $5 trillion out of government revenue, conveniently replaced by (Shhhhhh!) the sale of T-bills (federal debt). “The GOP base” remained loyal – even as their bridges collapsed and their schools crumbled and their drinking water became undrinkable and oil gushed in their waterways and down their streets – because of all those bright shiny objects flashing in front of their eyes: God, guns and gays.
Funny thing though: here we are, almost 40 years on – and the GOP is losing its touch. Maybe more to the point, its base is succumbing to that age old problem: death. The newest American generations aren’t much interested in singing from the same old Republican hymnal. Communism? What’s that? Young women feel quite capable of making their own reproductive choices. Organized religion (Christian and otherwise) has an ever decreasing hold on Americans under 40. Twenty percent of us now check “none of the above” in answer to the polls about faith. There are more guns in America, but they are held by a shrinking number of gun owners (–only 1/3 of us now). And then there’s the whole gay thing.
There is probably no greater measure of failure than the GOP’s near total defeat vs teh gay. How bad is it? Well, I’m guessing that if you are an anti-gay bigot these days, it probably feels something like this:
Not that they didn’t have their glory days. If you trace the rainbow’s arc back twenty years, it was a real shitstorm. In 1994, Bill Clinton (yes, that Bill Clinton) signed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) into law – shamefully, in the middle of the night. In 1996, DOMA (the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’) was passed. No state was even contemplating marriage equality at that point. But DOMA made sure that if any gay or lesbian couple managed to get themselves legally hitched in these United States (or anywhere else), then at least the federal government wouldn’t have to recognize that sort of abomination. Morally and ethically, that’s a problem. But legally, too: there are 1,138 federal benefits and rights bestowed on people who are legally married in this country. DOMA denied all of those rights to gay couples – even if any of the states decided that gay was OK. Which they started to do, early in the next millennium.
In 2004, Massachusetts made history as the first state to sanction same-sex marriage. It was followed in 2008 by Connecticut and California. Uh-oh. California. You know what that means… the slippery slope… 15% of the American population lives there. And it’s the place where all the most popular trends start. Like hula hoops and Valley girls and convertibles and dirty dancing. Better nip that in the bud. So the right wing flapped mightily, with massive funding and organization and fear campaigns about the children! from the Catholic Church (seriously?!) and the Mormons (the irony!), and they mustered 52% to pass Prop 8 – amending the California constitution to restrict civil marriage to one-man-and-one-woman.
That began a five-year-long cascade of court decisions and appeals. At the same time, a number of anti-DOMA cases and decisions and appeals were working their way through the judiciary. Prop 8 and the Windsor challenge to DOMA both reached the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2012, and the Court indicated in taking both cases that it would consider them together.
Meanwhile, over in Congress… a fierce political battle was waged throughout 2010 – and after at least 14,000 service members were forced out of the military for the ‘crime’ of being gay – an act repealing DADT was passed and signed into law by President Obama on 22 December 2010. The law was fully implemented and DADT finally received a dishonorable discharge on 30 September 2011.
Then… on 26 June 2013 – on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that are commemorated each year by Gay Pride celebrations all over the country – the United States Supreme Court handed down two momentous decisions. It swatted away the Prop 8 appellants, leaving in place Judge Vaughan Walker’s historic 2010 ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Two days later, marriage equality was once again the law of the land in California. And in a 5-4 ruling, the Court handed the indefatigable Edie Windsor her long-fought victory over the so called Defense of Marriage Act. In the process, the Court eviscerated DOMA and required the federal government of the United States to give full recognition (and all of those 1,138 rights) to all legally married couples in this country. (Click on Edie’s photo > links to amazing Time slideshow of Edie & Thea by Paul Moakley.)
Civil marriage is administered by each state. Whether you do a religious ceremony or not, you need to secure a marriage license from the state. Just as you need a driver’s license to drive, or a hunting license to hunt. The words are so familiar, whether uttered by a priest or a minister, rabbi, imam or a justice of the peace: “By the power vested in me by the State of (insert state name here), I now pronounce you spouse and spouse.” And this is why the Windsor decision did not instantly make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. It told the federal government to recognize all marriages legally performed in any state. And so, the battles shifted back to the states.
On 26 June 2013 there were 9 American states and the District of Columbia with marriage equality. Less than one year later, there are now 18 states (shaded dark on map, below) plus DC with marriage equality. Just today, we welcomed Oregon to the wedding party. And those numbers may be changing even more dramatically in the very near future. Here’s why:
The 18 dark shaded states plus DC have marriage equality as of today (19 May 2014). The medium shading shows 7 states where a court has found the ban to be unconstitutional, and those cases are now in the appeals process. These are seven of the reddest (most conservative) states in the country: Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Virginia and Arkansas (which isn’t correctly shaded on this map). Some of these cases (UT, OK and VA) have already been heard by the various Courts of Appeal, and a ruling could come down at any time. Oddly, the three states in yellow have bans in place that have not yet been challenged. Montana, North & South Dakota are home collectively to 2.5 million people; about eight-tenths of one percent of the American population. Just sayin’…
***UPDATE: Challenges were filed in MT and SD on 5/22, and ND on 6/6. No state bans remain unchallenged.***
So, 18 + 7 + 3 = 28. That leaves 22 states with the lightest shading on the map (see updates*, below). And in every one of those states, lawsuits have been filed to challenge the bans on same-sex marriage and these are working their way through the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before each one of those cases produces a ruling… the likely appeal… and a final decision. But what is no longer in doubt is the final outcome: marriage equality will be the law of the land in all fifty states, and it will happen sooner rather than later. I predict before 2017 – which will be the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision which swept away all the remaining state laws criminalizing interracial marriage.
* Updates – Bans now struck down in: (5/20) Pennsylvania; (6/6) Wisconsin (stayed); (6/25) Indiana (stayed); (7/1) Kentucky (stayed); (7/9) Colorado
***MAJOR MILESTONE: On 6/25, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued its ruling in Utah’s appeal of the federal court finding its ban unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling. This is the most significant judicial action since last year’s Supreme Court invalidation of DOMA and Prop 8, as it is the first time one of the Appeals Courts have ruled on a marriage equality case. The Tenth Circuit issued a stay pending Utah’s expected appeal to the Supreme Court. However, its ruling applies to all of the states in its jurisdiction: UT (stayed on appeal), NM (which already had marriage equality), WY, KS, CO and OK. The Tenth Circuit has already heard arguments in the appeal by OK (virtually identical to the UT case) and may issue its ruling at any time. In CO, a state judge struck down the ban on 7/9; county clerks in Boulder and Denver are issuing marriage licenses and a judge today refused to stop them. The confusion stems from the fact that the Tenth Circuit ruling found Utah’s anti-gay discrimination in marriage to be unconstitutional, which does apply to all six states in its jurisdiction. Does the stay apply only to UT or to the other five states too? The Tenth hasn’t said, and only county clerks in Colorado have tested it (successfully) by issuing marriage licenses. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen in WY, KS or OK. What is also interesting is that UT has elected to skip requesting an en banc review by the Tenth Circuit, and says it will soon ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. The next shoes to drop are the other Appeals Court rulings that are in various stages of the process. Idaho has appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and that’s a no-brainer. The Fourth Circuit (MD, VA, WV, SC) heard arguments in VA’s case in May and can rule any time now. The Sixth Circuit will hear arguments on 8/6 in six marriage cases from the four states in its jurisdiction (MI, OH, KY, TN) and can issue its ruling any time afterwards. The Fifth Circuit (TX, LA, MS) now has a case on appeal from TX. The Seventh Circuit (WI, IL, IN) has an appeal from IN, and maybe WI. Stay tuned! For up-to-the-minute info on all the cases in all the states and courts, go to FreedomToMarry.org.
But in the meantime, we can count on the Republicans and their “Grand Old Party” with their teabaggers and teavangelicals to hang on to their institutional bigotry until the bitter end. And that’s probably a good thing for the country, really. Because the more out-of-step the GOP is with the majority of Americans, the more marginalized it will become… the less power it will wield… and this country may one day soon be able to shake off the last effects of this infection that has raged in our body politic for decades. That would be a very good thing, for this nation and our world. (Witness the Republican primary contests being waged right now across the country… especially that clusterfuck in Idaho. Oh myyyyy… here’s a link. And here.) You know, before Antarctica melts and ExxonMobilShellGazpromWalmart acquires nuclear weapons.
And you wonder why I call this blog: The End (so far)
Feeling moreish? Here are some related posts from the archives: